Four ID Theft Suspects Arrested for Making Phony Verification Calls

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Identity theft has intensified to new levels. The phone scam is a tried-and-true method criminals use to retrieve private identity information from their victims. Recently, however, identity thieves have stepped up their game and have begun trying some new tactics.

How successful were they?

These new techniques didn't make it very far according to recent news reports. Four Seattle residents attempted to steal a total of $33,000 from Spokane banks by duping bank tellers into handing them money that wasn't rightfully theirs.

Here is how the events took place:

Four people visited local banks with stolen credit cards. They went up to the tellers seeking cash advances, which of course were declined. The plot thickens...

The criminals made calls on their cell phones and started conversations with people on the other end of the line. They would then hand the phone to the teller. The scammer on the phone would speak to the tellers in an official tone and tell them to approve the transactions. Four out of six tellers actually went ahead and approved the criminal's requests. Two tellers became suspicious and contacted the authorities.

A call was made from a suspicious Chase Bank teller on Newport Highway, the location where one of the criminals was attempting the theft. Deputy Robert Cunningham was a block away when the call came in and he nabbed the criminal who was leaving the bank. The other three were arrested outside by their car.

The criminals were charged with counts of first-degree theft and identified as Lukeisha A. Harris and Elicionne L. Washington, both 25 years old and Corey Jones and Charles H. Kendrick, who were 27. Jones has already pled guilty to the crimes, and the others are each awaiting trial.

Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Bob Sargent reported that he had never seen this version of identity theft.

The suspects were questioned about the identity of the person on the phone who was posing as an authority to approve accounts, but according to Detective Lloyd Hixson, the federal investigation is at a standstill.

Hixson recalls a similar crime in 2006 in Sacramento, California. Criminals used stolen credit cards to purchase merchandise. Once the cards were declined they made a cell phone call asking for authorization and handed the phone to the sales clerk for approval. A tip from a Tacoma detective stopped the spread of this scam which was making its way down the Interstate 5 corridor.

Thirty-three thousand dollars in three hours?

If someone asked you if you thought it were possible to steal $33,000 from a bank in a few hours by using bogus phone calls, you would have thought they were crazy. Yet, this scam would have made it to completion if it weren't for two savvy bank tellers. A scam like this seems too easy and too far-fetched for anyone to believe, but unfortunately when you are caught off guard, anything is possible.